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How Climate-Aware is Your Campus?

6 min read

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Benjamin Boivin
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The future Gen Z and Gen Alpha students will be the most climate-conscious generations yet. How big a part this will play in their university selection process is yet to be seen, but how climate-aware is your campus? And how valuable is it to promote this to prospective students?
There are ways for colleges to not only appeal to environmentally conscious students, but to save money and positively impact the community during the process.
Here are some easy ways to signpost the efforts your institution is going to become greener.

Zero carbon footprint

There are very few institutions with a “net-zero” carbon footprint, or that their input of energy, water, food, and so forth, is equal to or less than their output. 
If students want to go carbon-free at college, there are only a few options for them to pick from in 2022, but this is likely to increase in the next couple of years. 
For example, Colby College has a robust composting program while Middlebury College in Vermont is divesting from fossil fuels. Bowdoin College has installed the largest solar array in the state of Maine and American University is committed to zero waste and LEED-certified buildings. Students at the University of San Francisco enjoy an electric carpooling culture while New York’s Colgate College community can be found riding bikes and planting trees around their campus. While not every college in America needs to reach a net-zero carbon goal immediately, they should all be taking steps to get there in the future.

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What are you doing to be more climate-conscious? Signpost it on your website and if you have a beach clean day or are promoting a carpool, advertise it on social media so prospective students know there are causes they can get involved with.
When students arrive on campus, incorporate information into their orientations about the steps that are being taken.

Single-use plastics

An easy way to win over students is to eliminate single-use plastics from across the campus. Install more water fountains to fill up water bottles and allow students to take away food in their own containers. Simple!

The Academic Impact of Climate Change

Prospective college students without a specific major in mind will likely research in-demand jobs and lucrative long-term careers. Environmentally focused academic programs check both boxes. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects above-average job growth for green career paths such as environmental engineering technologist or technicianenvironmental scientist, and environmental specialist over the next ten years. Energy sustainability, horticulture, wildlife ecology, and marine sciences will also become more prominent as climate change impacts various industries worldwide.
Internships and field experience is essential for students to break into the rapidly growing industries of environmental law, engineering, health sciences and sustainability. Colleges and universities should focus efforts on creating more clubs and organizations with green initiatives.

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Promote your research

Another way students can boost their professional resumes while combating climate change is through interdisciplinary research and projects. Horticulture majors can team up with business majors to create on-campus farmer’s markets grown from community gardens. Environmental health science majors can collaborate with education majors to develop climate education curricula for underserved students and their families. Environmental engineering majors can work with fine arts and digital designers to create environmentally conscious murals for the inside of a renovated building on campus.
If your institution has taken part in environmental research programs or has current postgrad research students working on environmental-based research, make sure to shout about it. It reinstates the college’s overall commitment to climate – especially when the institution has funded and backed that research themselves.

Find out more about what students want to know about colleges through our 2022 State of Student Recruitment report - a 20,000+ student survey

Marketing materials

It is time to rethink that 50-page prospectus that was once given out at fairs. Stop printing the institution’s course catalog and replace it with a flyer and a QR code linked to the college website. This strategy can also replace redundant event registration letters, and bulky admissions decision packets. Invest more money delivering a quality student experience on your website while saving money on print and keeping your viewbooks out of the local landfills.
Pro Tip: Replace some of your print budget with school-branded items like reusable water bottles, grocery bags, drinking straws, and cleaning clothes.

Practical implementations around campus

If your student body drive to campus, consider setting up shuttle buses from student accommodation or installing electric car charging ports to encourage electric cars overall traditional gas
Make use of solar panels and up your recycling efforts on campus.
Does your university have used clothes bins? Or compost heaps? These are small ways to promote your commitment to the environment.

Community service

Climate change prevention is the goal, but what about the immediate efforts after a climate crisis takes place? One way for current students and faculty to understand the impact of climate change is to work with charities that help families affected by natural disasters.
From ShelterBox and Team Rubicon to Unicef and the American Red Cross, institutions should focus on finding volunteer opportunities for students. By experiencing the impact of climate change firsthand, students are more likely to own their experience and create an emotional connection to Mother Earth that lasts a lifetime.
While the cost and the university’s/program’s reputation will remain top of a student’s considerations when picking a university, showcasing how you are climate aware and making strides to help reduce the impact of climate change could be the difference between you and a rival institution.
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